Breathing: the One Bikram Asana I DISLIKE(D)

Video

Breathing: the One Bikram Yoga Pose I DISLIKE

I know. I know. Breath gives life. Breath gives existence. Yet, I resist it. From the beginning I’ve resisted it. I didn’t want to engage my core in the opening sequence, nor in the ending sequence. Too difficult, too hard—those serve as excuses, don’t they? The greater truth lies in the power of breath, the power it has to manifest untold soul realizations.

Last Friday, I casually mentioned that I hated the breathing sequence. Didn’t really see its purpose. Of course, I knew better. Breath gives more than oxygen to the lungs; breath gives oxygen to all the muscles, all the cells in the body. The better I breathe in the first breathing sequence, the better my body will do in the remaining poses, and the better my mind and spirit will do during the rest of the day. My mind knows this truth, but my body and spirit resist it. That is to say they resisted it until this past Friday.

After my very casual comment, my instructor told me that breathing happened to be the most important asanas of the class—I kinda knew that but had been resisting it. Then he dared me to do the breathing at the beginning and end of the class and do no other poses in between. Just spend 75-80 minutes observing my breath. I suspect he may not have thought I’d take him up on it, but I did!

As I normally do two classes back-to-back I decided that I would put my all into my poses so I could really have a deep meditative breath experience during the second class. I didn’t tell my instructor I’d be taking him on the dare, but I’m me, and I’ve got a lot of mental sh*t to let go of, so I’m sure it didn’t come as a surprise!

As the second class began I immediately made a decision to fully place myself within my breath, allowing oxygen to fully embrace my being. I kept my core activated during the entire opening breathing sequence. As soon as the the class started the half-moon sequence I stilled my body. For a few moments I just stood there breathing.

Then I laid down in savasana and tuned out all the happenings around me: the instructor’s voice, the movements and breath of others. The difficult part, of course, involved calming my own mind. So many thoughts raced through for about 15 minutes. I watched a mental thought movie of my life: I saw so many negative messages pass through. Messages people told me through the years: “I’m too needy, too emotional. It takes too much effort to be my friend.” I can’t really remember all the messages now, but they came flying at a startling rate. I didn’t become involved with them though; I waited for them to pass.

The insecurities, the negativity, every crazy thought filtered through my mind. I found myself wishing that I could express my self more in the moment. I saw every wrong “thing” go through my head. I struggled to stay still but I knew if I just waited the thoughts would stop. Finally, they did. The voices shut up.

As my mind stilled, my body became heavy, so heavy that I no longer felt a part of it. A deep peace flowed through my body. My conscious relaxation became an unconscious relaxation. I had no awareness of my surroundings, of my thoughts, of any external or internal force. For about 40 minutes (a rough estimate) I experienced a deeper peace than I’d felt in any other meditation (I do meditate regularly).

My physical body apparently decided it needed to move at some point and the numbness of my ar*e melded my mind, body and soul out of its deep peace, not entirely though, but enough to start a slow awakening.

When it came time for the final breathing I didn’t want to move, to leave the calm peace I’d experienced, for I knew I wanted to avoid a rough reality.

Sure enough, as the day progressed, the blissful emptiness I’d experienced filled with so many of the negative thoughts I’d seen filter through my mind at the beginning of my meditation during class. I so want this to be a journey of complete mental, emotional and physical healing. I’m such an emotional eater that I know I have to be willing to see deep inside my self.

I have a hard time expressing my self in the moment. My emotions become so clouded by my past that I struggle with the simplest of expressions. I struggle with telling people how I feel. It takes a literal miracle for me to express my self if my feelings have been affected because I know my past experiences cloud my present emotions. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the right to have my feelings because they’ve been forced down for so long—a survival mechanism for sure.

My struggle, my greatest battle is this: SEPARATING THE PAST FROM THE PRESENT TO MOLD A BETTER FUTURE.

After my yogic meditative experience I went on one of my favorite hikes. I knew I needed to give my self space to process all the sh*t that deep meditations can bring up. I wanted to give myself the space to feel, to experience, to wade through it all, so I could find my way out.

As I sat on a bench atop a hill I asked the universe for a sign, a very clear sign that would help me find clarity and beauty in the moment, and the universe delivered. I got my message in the most unexpected of ways, from the most unexpected of persons. The message didn’t solve my issues, but it made me smile and it told me very clearly that I had chosen the right path. That I would work my way through the muck to see the beauty.

Yoga really does heal. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy. But, in this moment, I know I’ll make it. I am determined to make it. Determined to let go of the past, to separate it from the present so I can create a better future.

Indeed that’s exactly what I’m doing: creating a better future.

I embrace the realizations that deep meditation brought forth. I embrace the work that lies ahead. I embrace the idea of spending a whole class lying in savasana again. Breath brings life. Breath brings hope. And now I have a whole new respect and perspective on breath.

Oh, and the next time you see someone spending the whole class in savasana know that they just might be having the most amazing transcendental transformational experience of their lives. Consider trying it some time! It’ll be the most amazing roller coaster ride of your life.

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Tricks Triangle Teaches Me

Video

I have fallen madly deeply utterly and completely in love with Triangle Pose in yoga, a pose most people don’t care for. Not me! I adore it! Why?

Every time I perform triangle I learn something new about my body. This past Wednesday the sky shifted completely for me during triangle. Why?

Alignment! Alignment!! Alignment!!! I work diligently at keeping my body properly aligned. As larger person I feel hyper-conscious about how I move because I know that I waddled more than moved before yoga became a regular part of my life. Now, you see why alignment and triangle and I have a deep passion for each other.

One of my struggles with triangle involves keeping my torso in life with my leg and hip. As the bulk of my body weight rests in my abdomen I have a tendency to lean forward in triangle—it’s a rough battle to not rest the side of my torso on my bent leg!

This past Wednesday, during triangle, I looked in the mirror and noticed my torso leaning forward. I already felt too hot, too tired, but this voice in my head screamed “just lift up your torso, so it’s in line with your leg and hip.” Somehow I found the energy to comply with that little voice of mine, and, in that moment, I really understood, I had yet another “aha” yoga moment!

The very second I lifted my torso into the proper alignment, the thigh of my bent leg came alive, so alive I could feel the heat in the room intensify, and in that moment every muscle and nerve ending in the thigh of my bent leg woke up in ways they hadn’t in a very very long time! I experienced how triangle helps build thigh strength!

I feel so grateful every time I have an aha moment in yoga, ever time I have a body revelation in the hot room, for each time I have one of these experience experiences, I receive a gift, one that confirms my acceptance of my physical body. The more I accept my body in its current form, the more it tells me how I can work to improve it. And where the body improves so does the mind and spirit.

(a note on the video: the first part shows me performing triangle with my torso out of alignment and the second part shows me with my torso in alignment to the best of my ability. As I watched the completed video I found myself not entirely pleased with it, and I almost redid, but decided I would keep it as is and use it as a foundation upon which to keep improving my practice. I also did triangle from a side view to demonstrate another angle of alignment.)

For a more comprehensive discussion of triangle, please click on the following link: http://www.bikramyogales.com/bikram-yoga/bikram-26-postures/9-triangle-pose/

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More than a Number: the Story of How I Lost ??? Amount of Pounds

Video

When people ask me how much I weigh (and some do ask), I prefer not to answer. When people ask me how much weight I’ve lost (and they ask this as well), I prefer not to answer. Why? Assigning a number to my progress on this path to healing and wellness on all levels (mental, physical and spiritual) places my efforts in a box. Suddenly, all my hard work (and it is hard work) becomes reduced to a number.

The intense work on my emotional healing becomes less significant. My inner growth, which can’t be measured by a number, ceases to matter to the masses. It’s true, mind you, that I’m doing this work for me, but I’d like people to see, through my journey, that when it comes to losing weight, the number on the scale, in so many ways, needs not to have the biggest impact.

When it boils down to it, when it boils down to weight loss, the problem is that all most people want to see is a number. The number overshadows the person, the effort, the time it takes. People see a number, they don’t see a person, and I’ve been invisible long enough. While it may seem an oxymoronic statement, I have indeed been invisible by virtue of my visibility. I’ve lived this for most of my life.

At my heaviest, all most people saw was the outer shell, the fat. They didn’t see me. They saw fat. They felt superior to me.

How do I know this? I’ve had so many verbally abusive encounters it would take volumes of books to detail all of them. As a teenager, I clearly remember walking around the mall and being taunted by children, teenagers, and adults. I can still hear their voices: “You need to do something. You need Richard Simmons.” On one occasion, they followed me around the mall, continuously taunting me. Children teased me all the time. Parents did nothing. Well, okay, sometimes the parents joined in.

Some people would try to help me with my weight, but their lack of sensitivity created more damage, such as when in high school, one of my gym teachers wanted me to walk/run laps during P.E. while the other kids had fun playing tennis and other sports.

Did that help me lose weight? NO! I felt completely ostracized. Being obese, morbidly obese, in high school felt bad enough, but to have an adult set me further apart from my peers made my life much more painful.

Becoming an adult, growing up, didn’t bring much relief from the chronic verbal abuse society felt it had every right to throw at me. People would tell me all the time “You need to do something.” Well, duh! Actually, they were the ones who needed to do something.

Every person who has ever said to an overweight/obese individual that they need help needs to ask themselves if they’re saying something because they legitimately love the person or if they’re saying it because they feel more virtuous because they’re not fat themselves. In the majority of the cases, people feel superior to or better than fat people.

Given the personal history I’ve just revealed, why then am I considering telling you how much weight I’ve lost?

People ask me all the time how much weight I’ve lost, and maybe it’s time I stop hiding behind the question, stop giving it power over me. “A life lived in fear is no life at all.” I have no room in my heart for fear anymore. And I have feared that when people hear the number, they will no longer see me, see my efforts, see that the number doesn’t represent the most important kind of progress.

I also believe that the story I tell you here might help you and others. I have that hope.
People may not realize how they can help, really help, someone struggling with weight loss/food addiction.

Let me tell you by sharing part of my journey. I had to want it first. No matter what others may have said, I had to want it. I had to want to eat healthier, to work out, to look at all the emotional triggers that made me want to overindulge to begin with—that’s where the real work begins. I needed to find that piece of me that desired real change and would work for it.

From the start of my journey three years ago, I knew it had to be an inside job—for this to last it had to come from the inside out. Sure, I wanted a quick fix. I dreamed of instant fixes like we see on television shows like The Biggest Loser.

But more than anything, more than that overnight pill, I wanted permanent, lasting change—I still do. I started walking outside and on the treadmill. I started keeping a regular hatha yoga practice. I started taking a closer look at my food. I worked at counting calories. That worked for me slowly. I introduced healthier foods into my days. I journaled about how I felt on days I ate unhealthy foods. I looked at people, places, situations that made me want to eat emotionally, and I slowly (well not so slowly) changed some of those situations.

It felt like hell sometimes; some days it still feels like hell. Some people supported me. Others didn’t. I’ve changed a lot.

I became my own person. Actually, I still am becoming that woman, maybe for the first time in my life.

I’m learning to sculpt the essence of who I am by incorporating more meditation into my life and learning to appreciate the sheer beauty of silence, my silence.

I lifted weights. I worked my buns at becoming more fit. Then, last April, during a rough spot in my life, I discovered Bikram Yoga and fell in love, really fell in love with sweat and discovered the real meaning of sweating away emotional toxins. I’m finding my inner strength, learning to rely on self, learning to see I’m beautiful just the way I am. And I’m learning to love my body in this moment. I’m making peace with my physical self.

That’s how I came to lose 168 pounds in three years. There I said it.

But that number in no way defines me, defines who I am, defines my soul. My journey will always be defined by more than a number. I’m more than a number. Whatever your number is, you have value just the way you are. What you weigh, how much you want to lose, how much you want to gain—those are numbers. They are not now, nor will they ever be, you.

I know that with continued intense internal and external work, that I’ll achieve my goals: a healthier spirit, mind, and, yes, body. I hope that by sharing this sensitive piece of my journey, you’ll see that you, too, can have the life you want, if you work for it.

Here’s one of my favorite transformational pics:

One of my favorite transformation pics.

One of my favorite transformation pics.

Here’s the link to a Bob Seger song that reflects my thoughts on numbers:

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Throwback Thursday: Doing Downward-facing Dog

Video

There’s this phenomenon on Facebook called Throwback Thursday where people post pictures of themselves from times past. In the fitness world people show “before” pics of themselves. Last night, I had some low moments and found myself feeling not too good about my current emotional state. When I find myself feeling down, I look for a way out, a way through. As I drove home from yoga, in the rain no less, an idea filtered into my head: instead of a Throwback Thursday picture, I’d make a Throwback Thursday video—and thus my downward dog adventures were born!!!

I first started doing hatha yoga in the summer of 1996 with my friend Sharon. We’d get together for some semi-private classes (there were about 7 of us) at a friend’s house. Our teacher, Craig Balcom, had the patience of a saint to put up with us! The antics we, well I, pulled in yoga that summer are legendary! But it’s safe to say they’ll remain secret!! Most of the women have moved away and Sharon has passed on.

I’m digressing again!! Such a habit of mine!

Back in 1996 I couldn’t even imagine doing downward facing dog! My body was too big (I weighed a lot more than I do now). I wasn’t strong enough. There was NO WAY I was even going to try it!

I’m not sure exactly when I first tried doing downward dog. I think it might have been when one of my instructors taught me how to do it against a wall. In the first sequence of the video, you’ll see me demonstrating the “against the wall variation”. I found even this to be difficult as my instructor (I don’t remember which one) would be picky about the position of my back. If I could have angled my back up I would have been just fine! But NOOOO!!!! I was ordered to do it correctly!! Imagine the horror!!!

At some point I could enter the pose from from tabletop position, with my knees on the ground. This you’ll see in the second portion of the video. I felt so HAPPY the day I could enter the pose from this position! I still didn’t care for staying in the pose though. That took too much effort!

One day, I don’t remember exactly when, I progressed to being able to enter the pose with my body almost flat on the ground. I felt elated!!! SOOO HAPPY!!! Still I didn’t care to stay in the pose—it felt toooooo taxing!!!!!

It’s different these days though. As I lost more weight I began to really appreciate down dog. While in the pose I can see the excess skin on my arms, and this makes me smile, makes me happy, The loose skin is a sign of progress that I’m working toward my goal. There are days where I’ll just stop in the middle of whatever I’m doing and go into down dog and look at the puckered up wrinkled loose skin on my upper arms—it’s a cool look actually. And I’ll stay in down dog for a few minutes just because! It makes me feel good as I can sense the growing strength in my body and in my mind!

Watching myself in this video, it would be easy for me to focus on my abdomen, but I actually notice my back more. I see a flat back. And that to me is a miracle. I used to have sooooo much back fat. It looked like I had “back boobs”!! I’m so grateful now to have a flatter back. That’s why I love locust pose so much in Bikram Yoga—it helps me to keep working on my back, and these days I can FEEL my back muscles in ways I’ve never felt them before. That’s a miracle. That’s a testament to my hard work. That keeps me going because I know I’ll feel in other places as I keep working toward my goal—to have a happier healthier body that allows me to truly live without self-imposed or worldly-imposed limitations!

(apologies for the lighting. It was raining outside and I made the video in the early morning light inside my apartment.)

Pic is of me doing Downward-Facing Dog February 2014

 

 

 

Downward Facing Dog February 2014

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue

Real Women DO Yoga: Yoga is for EVERY BODY!!!

Not too long ago I noticed a trend on some of the yoga fb pages I “like”. Pictures of young handsome studly men would pop up with the tagline “Real Men Do Yoga”, with obvious implications.

These pictures reinforce the media enforced notion that any body type that doesn’t have that “hot” look isn’t perhaps worthy of an “ooh” or an “ahh” and thus wouldn’t lure people to yoga or any other activity.

But how many people actually walk around with airbrushed appearances. Not many. The greater truth, beyond physical appearance, is that Real Women and Real Men DO YOGA.  Yoga is for EVERY BODY.

I am a real woman and I DO yoga. What does a real woman look like? What do I look like?

*I have insecurities, doubts, fears

*I have intensely engaging eyes that reveal the strength and truth of my spirit

*I have a body that’s larger than some and smaller than others

*Sometimes I feel sad; sometimes I feel happy

*Most of my weight is in my abdomen; I don’t much like that, but I’m working on it

*I love what this body can do at this moment, at this size: yoga, cycling, hiking and soooo much more

This Real Woman does yoga, does life wherever she goes. On a recent trip to Texas I decided to compose a series of shots of me doing yoga poses on the go. This will be the start of a continuing pictorial series, which I will title “Yoga is for EVERY BODY”.

This means Yoga is for YOUR BODY. It doesn’t matter if your short, tall, wide narrow—none of that matters. IF you can breathe you can DO YOGA!  If I can do it, you can do it. If you think you can’t, then take a look a look my Texas yoga pictures and you’ll know you can.

Yoga, at its, core isn’t about your body type or size, it’s about healing you from the inside out. It’s about creating the life you want from a place of strength, from a place of knowing. It’s finding the strength and beauty within to formulate the life you DESERVE. Don’t accept less from yourself. You deserve the best.

Yoga is helping to heal me from the inside out. Before I started Bikram I NEVER would have imagined that I could or even would willingly allow this body to be seen doing yoga poses. I based my self-worth on my physical size. I’m learning not to do that. I’m learning to see the beauty in me as I am now, and that’s really all that matters because all any of us has is now.

Celebrate your NOW!  Do YOUR YOGA!!  And remember………

Yoga is for EVERY BODY

and

Real Women DO yoga

(here are a few pics to get the show on the road. more will be posted when time allows.)

Tree!

Tree!

Rabbit!!!

Rabbit!!!

Women Warriors!

Women Warriors!

TexasYoga3

Backbending in Waco!

Backbending in Waco!

Namaste Waco!

Namaste Waco!